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SwatTeam chronically understaffed, limiting party options

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Last Saturday, both parties hosted by ENLACE and Phi Psi did not have SwatTeam members present. SwatTeam determines whether or not its members are required to work an event based on the attendance of the party and whether alcohol is being served. Shivani Chinnappan ’18 posted on the Swarthmore College Facebook group seeking SwatTeam members to work at parties that night.

SwatTeam serves as a liaison to Public Safety by carrying out safety measures at parties such as checking IDs, providing crowd control, regulating alcohol that is brought into parties or taken out, providing a safe walk to student’s residences upon the student’s request, and enforcing the end time for parties. Recently, SwatTeam has experienced a shortage of workers.

While ENLACE hosted an open party with no alcohol, so no SwatTeam members were required to be present. Phi Psi had to hold a closed party due to the lack of SwatTeam members working on Saturday.  

Chinnappan, a SwatTeam member and a party host on Saturday, believes that the shortage of workers on Saturday specifically was due to the storm.

[SwatTeam] put a call out for members to work on Friday but we were unaware of how many workers we would need because we didn’t know what parties would be occurring due to the power outage,” Chinnappan said. “On Saturday, we found out that a lot of people had withdrawn, so we told some groups that their party had to be closed.”

However, Chinnappan thinks that the shortage of workers this weekend was related to the more prevalent issue of not holding SwatTeam members accountable for working the shifts they have signed up for. Recently, the scarcity of SwatTeam members willing to work has been an obstacle for the organization.

“I can only speak for the past year, but there are lot of workers who will withdraw last minute,” Chinnappan said. “If you have a lot of people signed up to staff an event, someone might choose not to show up because they think somebody else will. We want to focus more on getting people who say they’re going to work to actually work.”

If there are a lack of SwatTeam members willing to work, organizations may not be able to hold open parties or serve alcohol at them. According to SwatTeam director Eli Kissman ’19 the number of SwatTeam workers that are required to work a party is determined by the size of the space and whether an alcohol permit was submitted.

This number [of SwatTeam members working] is somewhat flexible but there is a general guideline for each space, which is based on the number of exits as well as the size of the space,” Kissman wrote in an e-mail. “We will increase the number of SwatTeam members working at a given event if we believe it will be more popular for any reason.”

A party can be shut down if there are too few SwatTeam members. This is determined based on the order that the alcohol permits were submitted.

According to Mark Hergenroeder ’19, president of Phi Psi, a closed party for the frat means that the party is limited to a smaller capacity than an open party.

We [the brothers] check IDs at the door and manage a spreadsheet of attendance. The most salient difference is that we prefer to limit capacity,” Hergenroeder wrote in an e-mail. “It’s more challenging to ensure a safe party environment with larger capacities.”

Hergenroeder sees the lack of SwatTeam members as a persistent issue for organizations looking to host parties.

I don’t like turning people away, but that’s the unfortunate consequence of being understaffed. We are happy to be flexible and help when possible, but it’s the third time this problem occurred despite having people who I’ve explicitly mentioned are willing to be trained,” Hergenroeder wrote. “This is confusing, unacceptable and unfair to every student organization who hosts.”

According to Hergenroeder, Phi Psi works with SwatTeam to take safety precautions before, during, and after parties.

We follow the list of procedures outlined in the Student Handbook to host parties. We work with SwatTeam in a lot of ways. The most important thing is cultivating a genuine, trustful relationship with them,” Hergenroeder wrote. “Before the event we create a group chat with SwatTeam to ensure easy communication, we identify brothers designated at ‘Party Monitors’ who are additionally resources for them, and we routinely check in with Swat Team throughout the night to debrief.”

Kissman believes that the solution to having enough SwatTeam members to work parties is to hire more members.

SwatTeam is not an easy job, which I think explains the low retention rate. You certainly cannot do your homework while working SwatTeam the way you can in some other jobs. We will hopefully alleviate the shortage of SwatTeam members by hiring new members,” Kissman wrote. “Ultimately if students want to party on this campus, there will be students working SwatTeam because SwatTeam is a requirement for open parties according to the student handbook.”

Regardless of whether SwatTeam hires more members or obtains more people to regularly work parties, the college will continue to require the presence of SwatTeam to ensure safety at parties.

Swat Team revitalized to enhance party safety

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Photo by Sadie Rittman

Along with changes made to the campus’ alcohol policies, Swat Team has undergone its own structural and training changes.

While Swat Team — previously known as the Party Associates (PAs)—has been in the process of transforming its policies and image since the last academic school year (ID scanner, a name change, wristbands), the current fall semester has witnessed additional changes to their alcohol and safety awareness training.

Swat Team is a student safety resource and bystander intervention team present at all campus parties serving alcohol. According to Mike Elias, assistant director of student activities, leadership, and greek life, Swat Team has received training from campus resources such as Public Safety, Violence Prevention Educator Nina Harris, Drug and Alcohol Educator Josh Ellow, Title IX Coordinator Kaaren Williamsen and Elias himself.

“The vision of the program is to create a team of students who are empowered and equipped at addressing student safety concerns/issues within party spaces,” said Elias in an e-mail to the Phoenix.

A new component to the team’s training included a condensed version of Training Intervention Procedures (TIPS), a program that aims at developing skills designed to prevent intoxication, underage drinking and drunk driving.

Elias elaborates, “Both Josh Ellow and myself are Certified TIPS-Trainers and have provided a condensed version of the training to the entire SwatTeam in order to improve the team’s ability to identify and respond to situations where intoxication presents a safety risk to students at all-campus parties and events.”

Veda Khadka ’16, this year’s Swat Team student director, said she was glad to have received the new training.

“TiPs training is great because it helps debunk a lot of common myths around drinking that we often fall subject to without realizing, with more accurate knowledge on how to identify and aid (to some extent) a sick individual, Swat Team staff members can do their jobs better,” she said in an e-mail to the Phoenix.

Swat Team consists of student director Khadka, six managers, and a team of Swat Team staff members. The managers oversee team members working at parties, interact with Public Safety, and coordinate with team members at different campus parties in order to anticipate potential overcrowding at a particular party.

“The structure of the program allows for leadership development as students gain experience working in various positions on the team,” said Elias.

Swat Team members have expressed frustration regarding the campus’s perception of the organization. Kaitlyn Ramirez ’17, a Swat Team staff member, felt that the student body was ill-informed on Swat Team’s role at campus parties.

“We’re not Public Safety, we’re not the Swarthmore police,” she said.

Chris Capron ’15, a Swat Team manager, agreed.

“We all do this job because we care about the well-being of students, and sometimes that means enforcing rules that are frustrating or don’t make immediate sense, so we ask for patience,” said Capron.

Capron further affirmed that “if someone at a party wants something, a walk home, help with a friend, or if they don’t feel 100 percent comfortable, I really encourage anyone in that situation to ask a [Swat Team] member for help.”

Khadka expressed a similar need to establish Swat Team’s role as an ally and safety resource that the campus should trust.

“We’re also just students doing our jobs,” she said. “It’s hard to separate the shirt and the student.”

Assault prompts new party ID policy

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Following the sexual assault of a Bryn Mawr student at a party on campus last month, the college has initiated a policy of swiping student IDs at the doors of all social events where alcohol is being served. Operated by members of SwatTeam – the student group responsible for regulating parties – the ID scanners provide the college with information about how many students attend each party and which students arrive at what time. To the extent that individuals without Swarthmore IDs are denied admittance if unaccompanied by a student, the ID scanners also serve to limit the number of people unaffiliated with the college at each party.

“Our primary concern is always to provide a safe and healthy environment for all of our students and visitors,” said Beth Pitts, the associate director of investigations for Public Safety. “ID scanners will assist in those efforts. Utilizing scanners provides a measure of accountability we would not otherwise have.”

In case of misconduct at social events where IDs are being scanned, Public Safety could use the data provided by the scanners to assist in their investigations.

“If the person attending the party is a Swarthmore student, their ID gets scanned through the Swat-specific card slot until the ID number of the student comes up,” said Max Hernandez ‘17, a member of SwatTeam. “The ID number is then stored in a drive on the scanner so we basically have a database on who was at each party.”

Though the college has experimented with the ID swiping policy at large parties such as Halloween and the Masquerade Ball, the program has never been instituted on a regular basis. January 30th’s Pub Nite – which took place just hours after the new protocol was announced in an email from Dean of Diversity Lili Rodriguez – marked the first time the scanners were used in a space other than Sharples. Just four days earlier, on January 26th, the college reported the sexual assault of a Bryn Mawr student at a party on campus. According to Pitts, who is leading the investigation, the assault is believed to have been committed by an individual completely unaffiliated with any of the Tri-Co colleges.

Because most visitors to the college are recognizable to only a few people at the parties they attend, it is difficult to hold them accountable for their actions, and this shortage of eyewitnesses presents complications for Public Safety in the event of an investigation. The new ID scanning protocol aims to prevent such difficulties in the future by accounting for all arriving guests.

“All Tri-Co and outside community guests must be hosted by a Swarthmore student, as well as have their state ID to gain access,” said Rodriguez. “If a guest cannot present a valid form of identification, they will not be granted access to the party.”

According to Hernandez, at the entrance to each party, SwatTeam members swipe guests’ state IDs in order to store the information of the driver’s license in the same database as the Swarthmore ID card numbers. In this way, all individuals entering the party can be accounted for regardless of whether or not they attend the college.

But while this policy intends to restrain the number of individuals unaffiliated with the college who would normally attend parties, in the first few instances of its installment, the ID swiping program also turned away many students who attend the college.

“The email stating that IDs were required was sent out late that Thursday, around 5:00 p.m.,” said Hernandez. “Some people didn’t get a chance to see it and just counted on being vouched for, or knowing one of the SwatTeam members.”

Because of the new policies, Hernandez and the other members of the SwatTeam working that night were forced to deny these people entry.

“There was a pretty long line, and a lot of people without IDs didn’t get in,” said Laurie Sellars ‘15, who attended January 30th’s Pub Nite. “There were people trying to come into Pub Nite through side doors because they didn’t have their IDs.”

While situations like these are not expected to recur as the ID scanning policy becomes a more established feature of social events at the college, problems with the system still remain. According to Hernandez, the college’s efforts to prevent non-Swarthmore individuals from attending parties can also be undermined relatively easily.

“If the student is from Bryn Mawr or Haverford, they need to have a host on campus who they can sort of depend on,” he said.

Hernandez’s concern stems from the potential for individuals unaffiliated with the college to approach anyone with a Swarthmore ID and ask them to introduce them to the SwatTeam member as their guest. According to the policy, anyone vouched for and in possession of a state ID could be admitted.

Further complications arose this past Saturday at the entrances of both the Phi Psi Fraternity House and Paces Cafe where SwatTeam members without scanners asked party-goers were to present their IDs and to write down their names on a piece of paper outside of the door. According to members of SwatTeam, Public Safety never delivered any scanners to the SwatTeam during the night.

Without the scanners, the SwatTeam was forced to proceed through a modified protocol where they counted the number of people entering each party manually. This slowed the lines entering parties and led to long wait times at the door.

“I brought my ID because I thought it would be scanned,” said Madeline Conca ’17, who attended parties at Paces and Phi Psi. “When I finally got to the front of the line, I just had to hand my ID to the SwatTeam people. I think they just looked at it to make sure it said ‘Swarthmore College.’”

Still, administrators had a different conception of Saturday’s protocol. Regarding the events of Saturday night, Mike Elias, the faculty director of the SwatTeam as well as the student activities coordinator at the college, said, “scanners were used, but as of right now we only have two scanners – though we are in the process of purchasing three more – so they are allocated to the larger parties first.”

On Saturday nights, SwatTeam members could be regulating any number of event spaces, including Paces, Phi Psi Fraternity, Delta Upsilon Fraternity, and Olde Club. Additionally, according to Rodriguez, any party with more than 30 people in attendance must have a SwatTeam member present who checks guests’ IDs.

Depending on the night, SwatTeam members might be unable to scan IDs at many of the events occurring on campus.

Regardless of whether or not the scanners are present at every party, their installment represents a significant change in safety protocol and is indicative of Public Safety’s increased influence over the college’s Interim Party Policy.

“The scanners will continue to be used on campus,” Pitts said. “Our community’s safety is all of our responsibility.”

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